A three-game road trip that began for the Dallas Stars about as unattractively as possible in Phoenix Saturday night ended with a second consecutive win in Edmonton Wednesday night, evening their record at 5-5-1 on the season as they took one from the Oilers in overtime, 3-2.
Youth is the calling card of the Edmonton Oilers these days, and it was on display with blazing speed for much of the night, but it was the elder statesman Jaromir Jagr getting the job done for the Stars in overtime as he used Ryan Whitney like a pylon at the goal line and put one past Dubnyk on the short side.
The Stars had to survive, perhaps less than the normal amount of penalty trouble to get this one done, but penalty trouble just the same as it nearly gave Edmonton the lead in the third period.
The win gives Dallas four of a possible six points on the trip and an addition to that "foundation of belief" Glen Gulutzan has been talking about as the Stars have taken both games featuring both Derek Roy and Jamie Benn in the lineup.
The team now travels back to Dallas for a one-game homestand against the scary Anaheim Ducks before returning to Rexall to face the same Oilers next week, and presumably a healthier version of them.
Things started tentatively for Dallas, with Edmonton's speed controlling play early and putting the Stars on their heals. The Stars had just 2 shots on goal through the first seven minutes, but turned things around in a big way as they eased into the game's frenetic pace.
Dangerously trading rushes with Edmonton the Stars out-shot the Oilers by a wide margin the rest of the way, leading 12-9 in that category by intermission, aided in part by what we must hyperbolic-ally assume was one of the best penalty kills in team history - Grossly out-chancing the Oilers short-handed.
A Cody Eakin shot that rocked the inside of the post and the entire goal-cage was the closest the Stars would come to scoring, however, as Devan Dubnyk proved equal to all tasks assigned.
The Ryan Smyth dive on the minor penalty to Stephane Robidas was a savvy veteran move, to be sure, but he was repaid in kind and the Stars took a power play in the second period.
The power play would turn into little, and then the speed of the Oil would start to wear on the Stars a bit. Momentum swung the way of the home team as the Stars struggled against the two-man fore-check Edmonton sends with unabashed ferocity.
The Fiddler trio would get caught in their own end, with Robidas and Dillon scrambling to contain while nearly every Oiler on the ice had a look at Kari Lehtonen's net before Ales Hemsky finally buried one of many rebounds in the Dallas net for a 1-0 lead. Dallas spent the next 10 minutes surviving and trying to turn the tables yet again, but generated next to nothing on a power play resultant of Nail Yakupov minor.
Jamie Benn finally broke through on Dubnyk when Jaromir Jagry fed him in the slot. Benn made no mistake, and without hesitation (which has plagued Dallas in all three zones this year) swept the puck toward the Oiler net to tie the game.
After a questionable call against Edmonton Derek Roy would notch his first as a Star when his point shot went unseen until it was too late by Dubnyk, with Ryan Smyth unwittingly setting an apparent screen for his own goaltender. Dallas took a 2-1 lead on the road into the third period.
It's the name of the game for the Stars this year, and they found themselves once again needlessly sitting in the penalty box when Cody Eakin took a minor, then Stephane Robidas during the same two-minute span. They survived it for a time, but the league's (near) best power play showed their quality and tied the game with over twelve minutes remaining.
Same old, same old.
Dallas would continue to trade chances at even strength, but a Trevor Daley minor deep in the period put points on the night in doubt, and the Stars were fortunate to survive that, and get to the extra period.
A point earned is a good mission accomplished on the road, but against the young, talented Oilers, 4-on-4 or a shootout are bound to be to your disadvantage as both showcase skill and speed.
Jaromir Jagr said the heck with that though, and showed that age sometimes trumps all that young skill - sending a blistering short-side shot past Devan Dubnyk to give the Stars the extra point.
The goal would tie Jagr on the all-time NHL goal list at 668 with Luc Robataille.
Some bullet pointed thoughts coming shortly...
- Raw talent - The Oilers have it, and that's what's scary about playing that team twice more in February. The Stars have some as well, but it doesn't hit you in the face like Edmonton's does. The speed and the patience of their forwards is confounding and Kari Lehtonen was a little fortunate a time or three that they were just unable to execute. With Edmonton getting a center or two back for these other games, the Stars will have to be more structured to continue to pull points from these guys.
- Loui Eriksson - Razor touched on this briefly during the game and it's something we've been wondering internally here at DBD for a few games, but... Is Loui Eriksson Lou this year? He's not been as strong on the puck as in seasons past and he's not scoring. His possession numbers and advanced stats are not nearly where he is customarily. That being said, Eriksson and Roy with Ryder generated some nice scoring chances tonight, and if things continue to trend that way with a little much needed line continuity, then it could be what Loui needs to break out a bit.
- Jamie Oleksiak was the apple of the broadcast's eye early tonight and it wasn't hard to see why. His transition to the NHL has been without glaring mistake thus far, and his decisions on when to pinch and when to retreat have been spot on for the most part, with the occasional fire drill thrown in. Every Stars d-man has that problem, however. Now if only that whole "Big Rig" thing could be put on the back burner...
- Why does Rexall looks like it was lighted by designers of hospital exam rooms everywhere?
- Brenden Morrow, all at one time, looks both over-matched in puck battles when compared to linemates Benn and Jagr (tough act to follow), but as effective as he's been in a season and a half anyway. He continues to rack up points on that line, and is at least giving Gulutzan the freedom to leave that trio un-touched for now, and focus his energies elsewhere. I think you have to like the situation as a whole, for now. We'll see what they make of Perry and Getzlaf on Friday. He and Benn are adding a nice element of physicality at times that really makes the multi-dimensional.
- Philip Larsen was happy to be back in the game. Fairly obviously. His tenacity was evident as he joined the rush and "activated" time after time. He was on the ice for two Dallas goals in three, and was never really caught being too aggressive. If it were going to happen, it would happen against this fast Edmonton team first, so kudos to Larsen on what I thought, to the eye-ball test, was a pretty good statement. Josh may inform us with scoring chance numbers later that it was otherwise.
- It's easy to look at Fiddler and Nystrom being on the ice for the lone Edmonton power play goal and claim that it was their fault, but for so much of the night they did a very nice job down a man, and seem to have taken that role to heart as one they can focus on and claim for their own. Their rates on the PK as far as CORSI and scoring chances went last year weren't great, but through 11 games (again, eye-ball test) they seem improved this season.
- It was remarked by many on Twitter and elsewhere that the back and forth play in the first period in EDM reminded many of the 80's. As if to underline the point, the Oiler crowd did THE WAVE. Seriously.